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Fremont Basketball Banned

Harsh punishment from City Section panel over six ineligible players includes no playoffs next year. Appeal is planned.

April 04, 2006|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Fremont boys' basketball program is banned from participating in next year's playoffs and will not be allowed to play in any tournament games because it used six ineligible players during the 2005-06 season.

In imposing one of the harshest punishments ever in the City Section, the section's rules committee also recommended Monday that Sam Sullivan be suspended from coaching for one year.

That decision, however, is in the hands of Fremont's Co-Principal Rosa Diaz-Denny, who has expressed strong support for Sullivan, the Pathfinders' coach for 28 years.

Among the other sanctions:

* Two juniors still enrolled at Fremont will be ineligible for their senior years for providing false information, effectively ending their high school careers.

* The basketball program will be on probation through the 2007-08 school year and the entire athletic program will be on probation through 2006-07.

* The junior varsity team will be ineligible for the JV playoffs and all tournaments.

Fremont is expected to appeal the sanctions.

"This is unheard of," Sullivan said. "No one has been given a penalty like this. It seems a lot was done out of spite.

"I think it's too harsh and a case of overkill."

According to a final report sent to Fremont, the rules committee found "extensive falsification of information, forgery and lack of proof of residency" among student documents. The committee said there was "lack of administrative oversight and lack of responsibility taken by the adult personnel involved with the basketball program."

Fremont was seeded No. 2 for this season's playoffs after winning the Coliseum League championship. Just days before the tournament was to begin, the team was removed from the playoffs and forced to forfeit all its victories when five out-of-state transfer students and one in-state transfer student were declared ineligible.

The City Section ruled that the players did not move with their family unit as required under California Interscholastic Federation rules and concluded that false information was provided.

The investigation was triggered after a Boston Globe reporter made inquiries near the end of the regular season while researching a story about three former Boston-area athletes who had transferred to Fremont.

A review of documents from the five out-of-state students showed that the signatures of the mothers on the paperwork packets were "not consistent" if not "quite different," according to the City investigative report obtained by The Times under the California Public Records Act.

There were additional inconsistencies in the paperwork. Two assistant coaches at Fremont were listed by students on documents, one as an uncle and another as an emergency contact. Both denied relationships with the students and expressed surprise and puzzlement at being included. Diaz-Denny blamed staff shortages for Fremont's failure to catch the paperwork discrepancies.

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